Van der Zande Snatches Petit Le Mans Win on Final Lap, Nasr & Curran take Prototype Title

by Paul Hensby
Renger van der Zande, Jordan Taylor & Ryan Hunter-Reay - Wayne Taylor Racing

The 2018 Motul Petit Le Mans saw the lead change just two corners from the end as a fuel gamble from the #5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac did not pay off as the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac swept passed for the victory.

However, there were happier events for Action Express Racing on the other side of the garage as the sister #31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac of Felipe Nasr and Eric Curran secured the Prototype championship.

Filipe Albuquerque attempted to reach the chequered flag at Road Atlanta without the need of a splash and dash, but the Portuguese racer was unable to save enough fuel to make it to the chequered flag, with the Cadillac slowing with just two corners to go to allow the #10 of Renger van der Zande to take the win, while both Mazda Team Joest DPi’s also found their way ahead to complete the podium.

Van der Zande, Jordan Taylor and Ryan Hunter-Reay were left to celebrate the final victory of the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, while the double podium for Mazda was their best result of the season.  The #77 of Oliver Jarvis, Tristan Nunez and Lucas di Grassi finished 5.306 seconds back of the race-winning #10, while the #55 of Jonathan Bomarito, Spencer Pigot and Marino Franchitti completed the podium.

Acura Team Penske took fifth with Helio Castroneves, Graham Rahal and Ricky Taylor but fell out of contention for the race win after a drive-through penalty was handed to the car for Castroneves’ overtaking under yellow flags, while the pole-sitting #22 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan DPi of Luis Felipe Derani, Johannes van Overbeek and Timo Bernhard claimed sixth.

A late splash and dash for fuel meant CORE Autosport could only finish seventh, which was not enough for Jon Bennett and Colin Braun (who had Romain Dumas as their co-driver) to take the championship, with the #31 of Nasr and Curran doing that by finishing eighth alongside Gabby Chaves despite ending a lap down.

The JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca’s completed the top ten, with the #85 of Simon Trummer, Robert Alon and Devlin DeFrancesco finishing two laps down in ninth ahead of the #99 of Mikhail Goikhberg, Chris Miller and Stephen Simpson, who were eight laps down in tenth.

There were issues for the other prototypes in the field, with the #2 Tequila Patron ESM losing a number of laps due to a wheel issue that needed the Nissan to head behind the pit wall, while Performance Tech Motorsport had a number of issues that included a suspension failure.

The #6 Acura Team Penske DPi of Juan Pablo Montoya, Dane Cameron and Simon Pagenaud lost more than one hundred and thirty-five laps in the pits after something appeared to break early on that saw Montoya crash at turn three.  The car was returned to the pits and repaired but ended up thirty-second overall in the final result, although they completed enough laps to displace the #38 for thirteenth in class.

They were too far behind however to overtake the #52 AFS/PRI Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca of Sebastian Saavedra, Jose Gutierrez and Will Owen, which crashed out of the race with just over ninety minutes of the race remaining.

But the day belong to the #10, but the season belongs to the #31, with Nasr and Curran certainly deserving of the championship.

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